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Fantasy Basketball: Knicks’ Tim Hardaway Jr., J.R. Smith taking off

Injuries have played a major role in the New York Knicks’ struggles this season. Even after a third consecutive victory Tuesday night, it looks as if Knicks head coach Mike Woodson will have to juggle his lineup once again.

That could help your Fantasy Basketball team, as while many Knicks have underachieved on the season, things are starting to pick up in the Big Apple.

Knicks guard Iman Shumpert suffered a sprained right shoulder in the first quarter of Tuesday’s game against the Boston Celtics and did not return.

Jan 26, 2014; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) dribbles the ball during the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks won 110-103. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The severity of the injury was unclear.

Shumpert had shoulder issues during training camp also but had remained healthy all season to this point. He was the lone Knick who had played in all 45 games this season.

That streak will come to an end as it is unknown how long Shump will be out of action.

“How long he’s going to be out, I don’t know,’’ coach Mike Woodson said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post.

If Shumpert were out for an extended period, J.R. Smith or Tim Hardaway Jr. would likely replace him in the lineup. Judging by past history, you can expect Woodson to start Smith at the small forward position when the Knicks take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Shumpert was averaging 7.1 points per game on the season and has started all 45 games.

However I expect both Smith and Hardaway to increase their production over the course of the next couple of weeks.

It’s no coincidence that once Andrea Bargnani was injured, the Knicks offense took off as I just don’t like the fit Bargs brought to the Knicks offense.

For a team that’s 22nd in the NBA in scoring, the Knicks have scored over 106 points in four consecutive games now, which is a trend that fantasy owners should pay attention to.

You should also pay attention to Hardaway Jr., who is available in about 98 percent of ESPN leagues.

The rookie has scored in double digits in four out of the last five games and during the Knicks three-game win streak, has averaged 14.7 points, 2.7 three-pointers, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game, while getting 30 minutes per game.

The minutes will be there for Hardaway, so he is a must add in almost every type of league.

Sadly to say, so is Smith.

Smith is far more owned, as he is available in only 15 percent of ESPN leagues, but I would look to snatch him up.

His struggles on and off the court are widely publicized, but as of late the production has started to increase more consistently, which has always been a major problem for Smith.

While he is averaging only 12.2 points per game on the season while shooting a miserable 37.4 percent from the floor, Smith has been much better as of late.

He is shooting 45.5 percent from the floor during the past 10 games and has averaged 15.1 points per game during that span.

Smith being inserted into the starting lineup would see him increase in fantasy value as he typically gets 30-plus minutes per game anyway.

However Hardaway’s increase in minutes will be a huge boost for his fantasy value.

I always look for tends and players on hot streaks and the Knicks’ offense is trending in the right direction.

That being said Hardaway and Smith could be the beneficiaries of that and you should look to add them in your leagues.

Topics: Fantasy Basketball, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith, New York Knicks, Tim Hardaway Jr.

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